Federal MPs back NT’s plan for booze ban ballot

Federal support is mounting for Northern Territory Chief Minister’s bid for a ballot on alcohol restrictions as the Albanese government considers a proposal to hand Indigenous people control over services such as education, policing and health in central Australian communities.

Prominent Central Australian GP John Boffa said children as young as 12 should be allowed to vote on possible bans after Natasha Fyles outlined her preference for changing the territory’s alcohol policies according to a town-by-town poll, following the stop-gap alcohol restrictions introduced in Alice Springs this week.

Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour say she is open to town camps being balloted over alcohol restrictions.

Alex Ellinghausen

Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour said she was open to discussions with the Northern Territory government about its plans for a vote.

“It has got to be a really well-executed ballot so that people feel safe, but also so that it’s an accurate representation of residents living in town camps,” said Scrymgour, who has been vocal on returning alcohol restrictions to communities.

“What we also need to make sure is that the ballot doesn’t take the place of consultation – we still need to make sure governments continue to hold robust and in-depth consultation with community members.”

Agriculture Minister Senator Murray Watt also weighed in during an interview with Sky News on Friday.

Photos: Kate Geraghty

“I think that the more that we can be doing to be listening to local people about what solutions are necessary, that’s the way that we’re going to come up with the best solutions. And a ballot is an important part of that,” he said.

Boffa, the chief medical officer for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, said the takeaway alcohol restrictions announced by Fyles on Tuesday night would act as a circuit-breaker to help authorities get on top of alcohol-fuelled crime, but would not reduce demand.

After Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday floated the idea of total bans for vulnerable communities, Boffa said consultation was taking place on an opt-out system for alcohol restrictions.

“If that’s done well, I’d be hopeful there would be a significant level of support for the dry areas that existed there before,” Boffa said. “Children over 12 should have a say. I think 13, 14, 15-year-olds should have a say in this. That’s the age of criminal responsibility, it’s been raised to 12.”

But Graeme Smith, chief executive of the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation in Alice Springs, said the restrictions would become an invitation for alcohol smugglers to return to town camps, adding a return to bans would be discriminatory.

“You can’t stop the flow of water, you’ve got to manage it. You can’t stop people from drinking, you’ve got to find other measures,” he said.

Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory has taken a plan to the Commonwealth to include representatives from key Indigenous organisations as decision makers for critical services such as education and policing.

APO NT convenor Dr John Paterson said: “This initiative here is to address the here-and-now issues. Even though we support the Voice, we can’t wait until those structures are in place,” Paterson said. “Once it’s established, it will be able to advise the federal government on issues that are pressing and work with them.”

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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